by Á.R. Vázquez-Concepción
On March 19, 2016, the artist Chemi Rosado-Seijo (b. 1973, Puerto Rico) performed a guided walkthrough to all interested around the community of El Cerro, in the municipality of Naranjito, Puerto Rico. El Cerro (The Hill) is a community built near the main center of that town which lies towards the heart of the tropical island.
Since 2002 Rosado-Seijo keeps a close relationship with members of this community, giving continuity to a project that aims to paint all of the community’s houses one by one in shades of green so they can become aesthetically fused with the lush surroundings. The tour highlighted the progress of the painting process and the ingenuity of the community, who have carefully thought through and planned every step of their growth with little to no help from local authorities.
What residents have constructed over decades at El Cerro is an architectural marvel; a unique and diverse township sitting on the brow of a hill that can successfully drain the intense rainfall of the tropics and house hundreds of families.
As part of the tour was a small exhibition held at the community center of El Cerro, where Rosado-Seijo showed photography and documentation of his project since it’s beginning more than a decade ago, chronicling what has been a long-standing commitment to working with this community and giving them social and political visibility.
El Cerro, like many other humble communities that sit on land which is valuable face the threat of displacement to make way for private development. These poorer communities have become targets of the neoliberal economic policies that the central government of the island of Puerto Rico has been implementing since the late nineties. Many of these have failed disastrously and have led to the fiscal debacle that currently encumbers the island state. The future of these communities hangs in the balance, as they are at the crux of the current economic crisis, when a US federal fiscal control committee threatens to restructure the economy, and land use, throughout the Puerto Rican archipelago.
Born in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, Chemi Rosado-Seijo graduated from the painting department of the Puerto Rico School of Visual Arts in 1997. In 1998, he worked with Michy Marxuach to open a gallery that transformed into a not-for-profit organization presenting resources and exhibitions for contemporary artists in Puerto Rico. In 2000, Rosado had his first solo show at the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona, including interventions on billboards around the city. Since 2002, he has worked with residents of the El Cerro community, a poor neighborhood south of San Juan, to present public art projects, workshops, and other community initiatives. In 2006, he inaugurated La Perla’s Bowl, a sculpture built with residents of San Juan’s La Perla community that functions as both a skateboarding ramp and an actual pool. Since 2009, Rosado-Seijo has been organizing exhibitions in his apartment in Santurce, creating a center for meeting and exchange in the Puerto Rican contemporary art scene.
The following images of Rosado-Seijo’s guided tour were taken by artist and curator Abdiel Segarra-Ríos for Cranium Corporation:
©2016 Abdiel Segarra-Ríos & Cranium Corporation April 2016, San Francisco, California